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Madigan taps trio of women, including Bustos, to change ‘culture of politics’

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. | AP

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Saturday announced in a letter to Democratic committeemen that a group of three key Democratic women, including Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, will lead a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic party and how to “change the culture of politics.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos

The letter wraps a whirlwind of a week for the speaker. It began Monday with him announcing the firing of a top aide for “inappropriate conduct” with a political consultant. It ended with an admission that he has not done enough to combat sexual harassment.

On Saturday, the speaker – who is also the longtime head of the Democratic Party – said he has asked Bustos, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, to “take the lead on facilitating a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic Party of Illinois . . . and how we can work to change the culture of politics.”

Madigan’s letter to members of the Democratic State Central Committee follows another letter he sent Friday to Democratic members of the General Assembly, the speaker’s staff and all members of political campaigns working within his political committees. In that letter, the speaker detailed ways for people to reach out to independent counsel with claims of sexual harassment

Susana Mendoza. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times | <a href="">video</a>
Susana Mendoza. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times | video

In Saturday’s letter, Madigan said it’s time to make away with the “business as usual” mentality with campaigns and political offices.

Friday’s letter marked a more personal tone for the speaker: “We haven’t done enough. I take responsibility for that. I would never condone, sweep under the rug or refuse to take any step to ensure we did not eradicate any behavior of this kind,” Madigan wrote in the letter to Democratic caucus members, and state and political staffers.

In Saturday’s letter, Madigan writes that “persons within our party should be rewarded for their value and contribution, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. It’s time to move beyond our current way of thinking. I recognize this change must start at the top, which means it starts with me and with each of you.”

State Rep. Carol Ammons | Twitter
State Rep. Carol Ammons | Twitter

I understand the ‘knock it off’ mentality is not enough, and we must, and will, do better moving forward. I commit to do more, and I welcome any and all suggestions you may want to bring forward. Our culture must change and I want to work together to make the necessary changes. We must do better. We will do better.”

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